“That was in—”
“In February we were at Nice,” Alicia said, musingly. Then she took up her divining-rod again. “One can imagine that she was grateful. People of that kind—how snobbish I sound, but you know what I mean—are rather stranded in Calcutta, aren’t they? They haven’t any world here;” and, with the quick glance which deprecated her timid clevernesses, she added, “The arts conspire to be absent.”
“Ah, don’t misunderstand. If there was any gratitude it was all mine. But we met as kindred, if I may vaunt myself so much. A mere theory of life will go a long way, you know, toward establishing a claim of that sort. And, at all events, she is good enough to treat me as if she admitted it.”
“What is her theory of life?” Alicia demanded quickly. “I should be glad of a new one.”
Lindsay’s communicativeness seemed to contract a little, as at the touch of a finger light, but cold.
“I don’t think she has ever told me,” he said. “No, I am sure she has not.” His reflection was: “It is her garment—how could it fit another woman!”
“But you have divined it—she has let you do that! You can give me your impression.”
He recognised her bright courage in venturing upon impalpabilities, but not without a shade of embarrassment.
“Perhaps. But having perceived, to pass on—it doesn’t follow that one can. I don’t seem able to lay my hand upon the signs and symbols.”
The faintest look of disappointment, the lightest cloud of submission, appeared upon Miss Livingstone’s face.
“Oh, I know!” she said. “You are making me feel dreadfully out of it, but I know. It surrounds her like a kind of atmosphere, an intellectual atmosphere. Though I confess that is the part I don’t understand in connection with an actress.”
There was a sudden indifference in this last sentence. Alicia lay back upon her wolf-skins like a long-stemmed flower cast down among them, and looked away from the subject at the teacups. Duff picked up his hat. He had the subtlest intimations with women.
“It’s an intoxicating atmosphere,” he said. “My continual wonder is that I’m not in love with her. A fellow in a novel, now, in my situation, would be embroiled with half his female relations by this time, and taking his third refusal with a haggard eye.”
Alicia still contemplated the teacups, but with intentness. She lifted her head to look at them; one might have imagined a beauty suddenly revealed.
“Why aren’t you?” she said. “I wonder, too.”
“I should like it enormously,” he laughed. “I’ve lain awake at nights trying to find out why it isn’t so. Perhaps you’ll be able to tell me. I think it must be because she’s such a confoundedly good fellow.”
Alicia turned her face toward him sweetly, and the soft grey fur made a shadow on the whiteness of her throat. Her buffeting was over; she was full of an impulse to stand again in the sun.